Unfortunately for many young people, managing bullying is a daily occurrence – learning how to avoid it, stand up to it, or at worst tolerate it until they can escape. I remember a particularly difficult time in middle school when it felt as if I had to be a “mean girl” or suffer at the hands of the alpha pack. Standing on the sidelines was just as painful as being picked on.
Like Jenna in 13 Going on 30, I would fantasize of the day as an adult when none of it mattered. I’d be an adult living in the big city, successful, happy…as Jenna would say “30, flirty, and thriving.”
I’m fortunate enough to feel 30ish, flirty and thriving! Although some things don’t change despite our age – bullying still exists in the adult world. The Workplace Bullying Institute reports that in 2010 about 35 percent of employees in the U.S. had been or are currently being bullied. In my work with adults, I often explore with them troubling interpersonal dynamics at work reminiscent of their lives as teenagers. “Does it ever end?!” is heard almost daily. A new study is out that not only is workplace bullying a problem, witnessing it makes people more likely to quit their jobs.
The Canadian study observed approximately 400 nurses in 42 different hospitals. Just like my fantasies as tween were a means to escape a threatening environment, the study found that adults who witnessed bullying were more likely to leave their position, even if they weren’t directly bullied.
The study goes on to suggest that by working in an environment where you or others are being bullied, the act of leaving is experienced as a huge disruption to a system that is hostile, “an act of defiance,” as Marjan Houshmand, one of the authors of the study, states.
The question remains: why does bullying continue despite our evolution into adulthood? What do you think? Look out for my continuation of this post next week!